Written by Dr Sabina Dosani, MBBS MSc MRCPsych

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist at Dr Sabina Dosani

Sabina is a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist with many years of experience in helping children, teenagers and their families with psychological and psychopathological conditions. She regularly acts as an expert witness for the Family Court.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation relaxes the body progressively as children focus on different muscle groups. There are 3 basic steps:

  1. Isolate a muscle, inhale, and tense it.
  2. Hold the muscle tense for 5-10 seconds.
  3. Exhale, and slowly relax the tense muscle. The relaxation phase needs to be at least as long as the tensing phase, possibly longer.

The progressive tense-hold-relax sequence moves up or down through the body. Some children prefer to move from toes and feet up towards their face. Others prefer to move down from their head, beginning with scrunching their eyes up and working down the body.

  • Ask your child to lie down.
  • Get your child to bend her legs at the knees so her feet are flat on the ground.
  • Say,“close your eyes and pretend you are at the beach, lying on the sand”
  • Ask your child to pretend she hears the water lapping against the shore.
  • Ask your child to imagine that it’s a beautiful, sunny day. The sun feels warm against her skin. The sand is warm underneath her body.
  • Have your child take a few deep breaths as she “watches the waves go in and out”.
  • Now ask your child to squeeze the sand between her toes. Inhale, hold, exhale, relax.
  • Now squeeze both feet. Inhale, hold, exhale,
  • Say, “Do you feel the difference when you are relaxed?”
  • Now ask her to tighten her legs. Inhale, hold, exhale and relax.
  • Now her bottom, tummy, and chest. Inhale, hold, exhale and relax.
  • Now her hands and arms.
  • Then her shoulders and neck. Inhale, hold, exhale,
  • And then her face. Sometimes children don’t know how to tense up their face.  You may need to  say something like: “Screw your eyes shut tight “Inhale, hold, exhale, relax.
  • Finally, have her squeeze her whole body. Inhale, hold, exhale,
  • Ask her to take a few more deep breaths.
  • Remind her to feel the warm sun and sand. Hear the water lap against the shore.
  • Ask her to open their eyes.

Although this is a great exercise to do at home, it’s worth learning a more portable relaxation technique as well.


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